The best restaurant in all of France

OK, OK, so maybe I’m not the most objective judge. I’ll admit it up front, I am the chef’s significant other, so I guess I would be a fan of what I consider to be one of the best restaurants here in the South of France. However, you could argue that I know the establishment, and the chef, well, and so am therefore a very good judge. Or, I’ll put it to you this way – I fell in love with the man because of his cooking. That’s pretty good cooking, wouldn’t you say? Yep, it’s true, the way to a woman’s heart is through the stomach. But it must be said, it wasn’t just the cooking. It was the passion, and the great taste and the ‘je ne sais quoi’ of his outlook on life too (oh and the accent – who can deny the sexiness of a French accent). And those very same things can be felt at Les Sarments, my partner’s restaurant in Puyloubier, about 15 minutes east of Aix en Provence, at the foot of the Sainte Victoire mountain.

The food is inspired and creative, the service is friendly and never stuffy and the garden seating has to be the best terrace of any in the region. It’s like little secret walled garden, with pomegranet and fig trees, chirping birds and no traffic.

And it’s a child friendly place – a great day out. After driving along the Sainte Victoire you can walk around the quaint village of Puyloubier and then enjoy a meal that even the kids will love (sometimes the chef has prepared special Tagada Fraise ice cream just to please the younger guests).

And if you are looking to wow your out of town friends with your ‘life in Provence’ lifestyle, look no further. One lazy afternoon over a meal here and they will be planning on how to move to the south of France!

But don’t take my word for it. Have a look at the press articles and comments on the Sarmetns blog: http://lessarments.wordpress.com, or speak with anyone you know who has been.

Makes sure to reserve: 04 42 66 31 58.  If you do go, then tell him Amy’s blog sent you.

Bon appetit, and enjoy.

Restaurant Les Sarments, 4 rue Qui Monte, Puyloubier. Tel: 04 42 66 31 58

Your kids are what you eat

It’s great to see a rock n roll chef like Jamie Oliver taking such things as children’s eating habits as his own personal project. Bravo Jamie!

These are my glasses

I have had so many requests for the lyrics to the Laurie Berkner song ‘These Are My Glasses” that I’ve decided to give them front page status.

These Are My Glasses (L. Berkner)

These are my glasses- make glasses with your finger
This is my book- hands pressed together
I put on my glasses- put on the glasses
And open up the book- open your hands
Now I read read read- hold out the “book”
And I look look look- look through the glasses
I put down my glasses- put hands down and…
WHOOP- clap hands together
Close up the book.

You can also listen to the song ‘These are my glasses” and download a track of it here:

http://mog.com/music/Laurie_Berkner/Whaddaya_Think_of_That%3F/These_Are_My_Glasses

Compassionate Connections

I found this article about NVC (non-violent communication) by Inbal Kashtan an inspiring and, even better, applicable look at this respectful approach to raising children. It also works with male members of the species I have found!

When our baby was a week old, his grandfather expressed concern that my partner and I were holding him too much. Since then, Grandpa has worried about cosleeping and extended nursing, and we have continued to talk together about the differences in our parenting philosophies. At one point Grandpa tried to harmonize our obviously different approaches: “Surely we all want the same thing,” he said. “We want our children to grow up to become independent.”

We do want our son to develop the resources to care for himself and to meet his needs effectively. We also want him to be deeply connected to himself and to others, to become interdependent as well as independent. The conviction that by practicing attachment parenting my partner and I were creating the foundation for a lifetime of trust and connection has been deeply sustaining. Attachment parenting means nurturing independence and interdependence by prioritizing babies’ needs. We hold them, nourish them, wrap them onto our bodies, welcome them into our beds. Yet before our children are out of diapers our relationships with them become infinitely more complicated. As they grow, we encounter increasingly autonomous human beings whose desires often collide with ours. Faced with this greater range and complexity of needs, we are often less clear about our options for responding in ways that nurture trust, respect, and autonomy.

How do we deal with a two year old when he grabs every toy his friend plays with? What do we say to a four year old who screams in rage when her baby brother cries? How do we talk with a ten year old about the chores he has left undone, again? What strategies will keep our teenager open with us–and safe? Nonviolent CommunicationSM (NVC), sometimes referred to as Compassionate Communication, offers a powerful approach for extending the values of attachment parenting beyond infancy. A process for connecting deeply with ourselves and others, and for creating social change, NVC has been used worldwide in intimate family settings as well as in organizations, schools, prisons, and war-torn countries.

NVC shares two key premises with attachment parenting: Human actions are motivated by attempts to meet needs, and trusting relationships are built through attentiveness to those needs. Both premises contrast with prevailing childrearing practices and with the assumptions about human beings that underlie these practices. Instead of focusing on authority and discipline, attachment parenting and NVC provide theoretical and practical grounds for nurturing compassionate, powerful, and creative children who will have resources to contribute to a peaceful society.
Unlike conventional views of babies as manipulative and in danger of being spoiled, attachment parenting suggests that our babies’ cries are always attempts to get their needs met. NVC, too, shifts attention away from judgments about our own and others’ actions (as manipulative, wrong, bad, inappropriate–or even good), focusing instead on our own and others’ feelings and needs. Consider the following common situation, which we call “The Mess.” A child, Anna, leaves her clothes and toys strewn about the house. Dad may reprimand, remind, offer incentives, or punish. These tactics may or may not lead to the immediate outcome he intends. They will, however, likely result in unwanted long-term outcomes, such as hindering Anna’s intrinsic desire to keep her home orderly and impairing the sense of connection and trust in the family.

Anna’s mom may choose to say nothing out of confusion about what might work. Not getting her needs met, and lacking trust that her needs even matter to Anna, Mom might feel resentful and frustrated. The relationship is again impaired, and Anna loses the opportunity to practice finding solutions that will work for everybody–a powerful skill she needs in order to live in harmony with others.

NVC offers parents two key options that foster connection: empathy for others’ feelings and needs and expression of one’s own. In “The Mess” situation, Dad can guess–and thus connect with–Anna’s deeper feelings and needs. He can ask, “Are you excited because you want to play?” Or, “Are you annoyed because you want to choose what to do with your space?” Often, simply shifting to an empathic guess of the child’s feelings and needs eases the parent’s reaction. Dad no longer sees Anna as an obstacle to getting his needs met; rather, he is ready to connect with this other human being. For Anna, having the experience of being understood may nurture her willingness to listen to Dad’s feelings and needs and to contribute to their fulfillment. Mom may choose to express her own emotions. She may start with an observation: “I see clothes, books, markers, and toys on the living room floor.” The observation, instead of an interpretation or judgment (“The house is a mess.”), can make a tremendous difference in Anna’s readiness to hear Mom’s perspective. Then, when Mom follows with her feelings and needs instead of going immediately to a solution, she humanizes herself to Anna: “I feel frustrated because I enjoy order in the house.” Mom clearly expresses that her feelings are caused by her own unmet needs, not by Anna’s actions, thereby taking full responsibility for her feelings and for meeting her needs. She continues with a doable request: “Would you be willing to pick up your things and put them in their places?” Or if she wants to explore the broader pattern: “Would you be willing to talk with me about how we can meet your needs for play and choice and my need for order?”

Even if Anna were not willing to talk at that moment, her parents could continue to use empathy and expression until mutually satisfying strategies were found–in that moment or over time. In fact, one of the most profoundly connecting moments in relationships can occur when one person says, “No” and the other empathizes with what that person is implicitly saying “Yes” to: “When you say you don’t want to talk about this, is it because you want more confidence that we care about your needs?”

Every interaction we have with our children contains messages about who they are, who we are, and what life is like. The parent who takes a toy away from a toddler who just took it from another child while saying: “No grabbing,” teaches her child that grabbing is okay–for those with more power. The parent who unilaterally imposes a curfew implies that his teenager can’t be trusted to make thoughtful decisions about his life. Instead, in both words and actions, a parent could convey three key things: I want to understand the needs that led to your actions, I want to express to you the feelings and needs that led to mine, and I want to find strategies that will meet both of our needs.

By hearing the feelings and needs beneath our children’s words and behaviors, we offer them precious gifts. We help them understand, express, and find ways to meet their needs; we model for them the capacity to empathize with others; we give them a vision of a world where everyone’s needs matter; and we help them see that many of the desires that human beings cling to–having the room clean, right now!, watching television, making money–are really strategies for meeting deeper needs. Allowing ourselves to be affected by our children’s feelings and needs, we offer ourselves the blessing of finding strategies to meet our needs that are not at a cost to our children. Conversely, by sharing our inner world of feelings and needs with our children, we give them opportunities all too rare in our society: to know their parents well, to discover the effects of their actions without being blamed for them, and to experience the power of contributing to meeting others’ needs.

Have children, will travel

Continuing with the theme of what to do with the children during the upcoming summer holidays, I’d like to introduce you to ‘Avec Mes Enfants’. A fellow mum and fan of Mums and Meres, Virginie runs this company which helps people organise child friendly travel. Here is some information (in both French and English) on her services and the new English language version of a wonderful trip to Venise. Seems like Venise isn’t only for honeymoons – now it’s a perfect destination for children!

Voyager avec ses enfants : une expérience formidable … avec un minimum de préparation! Pour trouver toutes les bonnes infos avant de partir, rendez-vous sur http://avec-mes-enfants.fr, le site consacré aux voyages en famille, crée par une maman globe-trotteuse. Comme rien ne remplace l’expérience, elle donne la parole aux familles voyageuses pour partager les tops, les flops, et les meilleures adresses d’hôtels et de restaurants autour du monde. Plus de trente destinations sont en ligne ( Europe, au Maroc, USA, Amérique du Sud, Asie…) et une nouvelle destination vient s’ajouter chaque mois. Depuis le mois d’avril, une version en anglais est aussi disponible: Venice for kids (lien vers:  http://avec-mes-enfants.fr/venice/). Plein d’idées pour trouver la bonne destination et réussir votre voyage avec les enfants!

Travel with kids: a formidable experiment… with a minimum of preparation! To find all the tips before leaving, have a look on http://avec-mes-enfants.fr, the site devoted to family travels, creates by a mom of three who loves travels. As nothing replaces the experiment, it’s families which travelled which shares all about their trip and their best addresses of hotels and restaurants around the world. More than thirty destinations are on line (Europe, in Morocco, USA, South America, Asia…) and a new destination comes to be added each month. Since April, an English version is also available: Venice for kids (link towards: http://avec-mes-enfants.fr/venice/). A lot of ideas to find the right place and enjoy your trip with the kids!

Summer Camp

Tasha, one of our readers, contacted me with some information on this summer camp:

I like how informative you website is and see how it gives good information to ex-pat moms and families. There is a kid’s day camp in English coming up in July that is open for ex-pats and French alike that I would like to share with you.
The international Christian Community of Provence organizes an amazing kids camp in July. Last year there were 65 kids between the ages of 5 and 11 and it was a great time. This year it was the week July 6 to 10. It is set at the wonderful home of one of the families in St Marc Jaumegarde, staffed with counselors (many coming in for the week from the US) , and junior counselors ( from age 11-18) who are often alumni of the Camp. Activities run from Arts and Crafts to sports, participating in singing and music, live drama, and much more . This year’s theme is ‘ Aixpedition Atlantis’ and has an underwater theme.
We love what an impact this camp has on the kids and what a joy it brings to their summer. So if you are able to share about this camp with other it would be greatly appreciated. The camp website is http://www.iccpaix.org/Kidscamp

Ali baba’s lair

A Marrakesh riadWe love to travel, and want to show our kids the world, but I have a sneaking suspicion that 4 hour lunches in Italy aren’t THAT thrilling for them. But I have finally found a place that is perfect for a long weekend with the kids – Marrakesh! The place is a culturally enriched Disneyland: cobra charming in the square, wonderful gardens, flying carpets and princess slippers abound. Not to mention the fabulous weather and the child-friendly attitude of the people. Find a sweet little Riad in the Mouassina section of the city and let yourself be whisked away to another way of life.